Perseverance. That would be the word best likely to describe Oklahoma State quarterback, and former Enid Plainsmen standout Clint Chelf.
The 2012 season started out on a difficult note for Chelf, who found himself finishing third in the three-man race to become OSU’s starting quarterback following the departure of last year’s starter Brandon Weeden, who now has the unenviable task of leading the Cleveland Browns offense.
The Cowboys, coming off the most successful year in their history in 2011, claimed a Big 12 crown (whipping nemesis Oklahoma 44-10 in the process) and finished ranked third nationally after a 41-38 overtime win over No. 4 Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. But the departure of Weeden meant a wide-open competition for the signal caller’s spot and if anybody assumed Chelf, Weeden’s backup last season, was automatically in line to assume the reins, they, and Chelf, quickly found out differently.
Gundy and company made no secret of the fact it was a three-man derby between junior Chelf, true freshman West Lunt and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh. At the end of the derby, Gundy surprised a lot of folks by naming Lunt the starter followed by Walsh, leaving Chelf as the No. 3 option.
Chelf could have packed it in as it was a tough blow for somebody who had put up nearly 3,000 yards in offense in his senior season as the Plainsmen QB and had anticipated assuming the starter’s role this season. But to his credit, and despite the obvious disappointment, he decided to hang in at OSU.
“It was extremely tough, especially in the beginning when it was something I wanted so bad and something I worked so hard for,” Chelf told the Enid News & Eagle before the season began. He said he went home and continued to work on his game. No doubt he spent some of his time talking it over with his father, Randy, who walked on to the OSU football team after a successful run in 8-man football at Kremlin-Hillsdale.
The family connection to OSU also includes Clint’s older brother, Colton, who played wide receiver at OSU and was Clint’s teammate. There also is a strong sense of commitment within the Chelf household based on what Clint Chelf told us in the preseason.
“Where we come from with our family, quitting isn’t an option for us,” he said.
Not that anybody would have blamed him for considering other options. He had put up decent numbers in limited duty, appearing in five games each in his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons, throwing for 571 yards, six touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Prior to Saturday’s game, he had appeared in two games this season and was 2-for-5 in limited duty, while biding his time.
But Chelf’s time may still come this season, as Walsh is now out for the season after stepping into the starting role following an injury to Lunt, who returned to the starting lineup Saturday against TCU, with Chelf serving as backup and getting equal reps in practice this week with Lunt.
It’s a bit of an uncomfortable role though, as Chelf acknowledged in an interview this week in The Oklahoman.
“Obviously, I’m friends with J.W. and Wes and I never would want to see them get hurt,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, and I hope they get back soon. But at the same time, you’ve just got to stay ready.”
Whatever way the remainder of the season turns out, Chelf’s determination and perseverance serve as contrasts to the typical “me first” attitude of many collegiate athletes.
He may not be a starter, but his attitude remains first-string.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.